A State Department spokeswoman said Wednesday that the department is not working to figure out which U.S. official called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickens**t,” and indicated that the Obama administration won’t apologize to Netanyahu for the comment.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked directly if officials were trying to learn who used the term in an interview with the Atlantic published Tuesday. The comment has immediately called into question the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which was already widely seen as rocky under the Obama administration.
But when asked if an investigation was underway, Psaki said simply, “No,” and then dodged a question about why no effort would be made.
“There are anonymous sources in all of your stories every single day,” she said. “If we spent all of our time focused on that effort, we wouldn’t be working on diplomacy.”
Some have said the official should be fired because of the damage he or she has caused. But Psaki seemed to reject this idea when asked about it.
“Our focus is on continuing to work closely with Israel and their security, continuing to work through any areas of disagreement, and that’s where it remains,” she said.
Psaki also rejected the notion that the U.S. should apologize to Israel for the slight against Netanyahu, and instead said Secretary of State John Kerry would simply tell him that the comment does not reflect the position of the U.S. government.
“If this issue comes up, he would make clear this isn’t the position of the administration,” she said.
Vice President Joe Biden himself has recently had to apologize to a few foreign governments for slighting their leaders. But Psaki dismissed this by saying “every circumstance is different.”
Earlier Wednesday, the White House responded with a statement saying the “chickens**t” remark was “not the administration’s view, and we think such comments are inappropriate and counterproductive,”
Netanyahu himself said he’s being attacked for wanting to defend Israel.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) weighed in on the fight Wednesday by suggesting the official should be fired.
“The president sets the tone for his administration,” Boehner said. “He either condones the profanity and disrespect used by the most senior members of his administration, or he does not.”
“It is time for him to get his house in order and tell the people that can’t muster professionalism that it is time to move on,” Boehner added.